When I heard the crowds chanting: "Four More Years!" on election night, I didn't realize they were complaining about how long it would take to count the votes. And for all the warnings from the media that this one was a toss up and that we were likely to be up all night, the TV and radio people were remarkably dumfounded once that actually happened. Often, there was awkward silence as they awaited the next factoid or contrived interview with someone mouthing clichés like: "We'll be talking about this one for years." By then, perhaps they'll think of something to say.
Then there were the bogus projections and the pompous hypocrisy that went with them. Actually, you could argue that they got it right, but only after they called it both ways. And of course, all the polls were correct within the statistical margin of error.
Years ago, I helped build a new TV station in East Tennessee. We hired a firm to produce maps of our projected coverage area. Using information about the tower height, antenna pattern, and transmitter power, plus topological data from the US Geological Survey, the computers spit out an impressive graphic representation of the TV signal footprint. There was only one problem. The tower site was off by a few hundred yards, placing it in North Carolina and within a larger TV market where programming cost twice as much. When I complained, the company response was that even though they put the tower in the wrong state, its location was -- you guessed it -- still within the statistical margin of error.
The best television event of the election came two days later on C-SPAN. That network broadcast live from the dinner celebrating the 200th anniversary of the White House. Presidents Ford, Carter, and Bush, their wives, and Lady Bird Johnson shared the head table with President and Senator Clinton. As the camera panned the group, it was fascinating to play "Guess what they're thinking." The Clintons were all smiles. After all, they won. Meanwhile, Bush didn't seem too pleased to be there. I'm sure his mind drifted back eight years, when he lost a bitter election to the scalawag down the way, then left him mired in peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, Somalia, and Haiti, and having to contend with Sadam Hussein, an unruly Congress, a sliding stock market, and a hostile news media. Now that slick boy dog is about to do the same thing to Junior.
Although the vote count in Florida provided the thrilling conclusion to this melodramatic grade-B serial, that state didn't really determine the outcome. This election was won and lost in Tennessee and Arkansas, where the Democrats melted down at the local level, unable to field credible candidates in statewide races, much less support Gore's presidential campaign. If those states had gone the other way, they could recount the ballots in Florida until the ice caps melt, the water rises, and all the electoral votes go back up North where they came from, and no one would pay much attention.
What I really want to know is how the fatcats feel about this election. They just spent a billion dollars to influence the votes of people who were too stupid to punch the right hole in a card. How will they explain that to their grandchildren, or to their stockholders?